There have been many games that deal with the prospect of a post-apocalyptic world, but not many are like Fragile Dreams, the latest game from Japanese developer tri-Crescendo. It focuses on the journey that Seto, a young boy from Japan, embarks on following the unfortunate death of his grandfather. A journey that sees him face the world alone, as he looks for other survivors in the desolate lands. It's also a journey that showcases some beautifully artistic design, but some equally strange, and damaging game design.
Shortly after burying his grandfather, Seto decides he must try and find other survivors as he doesn't like the prospect of being alone. He can't get rid of the notion that he isn't the only survivor and it isn't long before he is proven right, as he stumbles upon a young girl. She is disturbed by his presence though, and runs away before he can talk to her. Seto, determined to find out who she was, then dedicates himself to finding her so that he can speak to her again.
It's a journey that's certainly interesting, as players meet some other colourful characters, and find out what exactly happened to the world to leave it in such a sorry state. It's also quite dark, which might surprise some. There's a strong focus on emotions, especially the ignorance that comes without the human interaction that people would take for granted in a normal world. Everything seems like a fairy tale, but a more plausible one. The percentage of story development against gameplay feels a bit disproportionate though, which is a shame as the world created for Fragile Dreams, which even includes ghosts and demons, is such an interesting place.
It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if the gameplay was consistently good, but it's not. Players take control of Seto from a third-person perspective and use the Wii Remote to aim his flashlight. Most of the world that Seto walks through is dark, due to the light being taken from the world, but the light from the flashlight also serves as a way to discover the various enemies that litter the world. The way the flashlight interacts with the environment feels really good, and it makes exploring the desolate locales actually quite enjoyable. The way Seto amends the map also makes things enjoyable too, as he constantly updates it depending on what players manage to uncover about each place. Movement can become a bit annoying sometimes though, as players must move the Wii Remote near the edge of the screen to turn around, which can become a bit cumbersome when in combat, or when using ranged weaponry.
There are three types of weapons in the game, but combat is extremely simplistic. Seto can use four different types of weapons, but there is basically no depth. Sure, better weapons can be found offering improved stats, but the way they're used never changes. The first weapon-type, which acts as a "club", allows Seto to swing three times in a row. The other two melee types allow for a single strike, or a charge move. The ranged weapon allows for single shots, but does enable Seto to enter into a first-person mode, which is essential for hitting anything - the third-person camera is useless for this weapon. To compliment the simplistic combat, is an equally simplistic role-playing system whereby Seto gains experience every time an enemy is defeated. It only allows for improvements in damage and health though, so it's extremely basic.
Although the camera does become troublesome, especially when using the ranged weapons, it's an acceptable fault. What isn't acceptable is some of the level design later on, it's just baffling. Players are forced to literally walk down a tunnel for more than a minute with very little happening during that time. They will also be forced to walk down more flights of stairs than it's worth the bother of counting and it makes what was initially a well-paced, intriguing game, into a boring trawl that highlights the lack of depth in other areas. There are also some frustrating elements, like lazy localisation. At one point, players are given a flashlight that can reveal hidden text on the wall, but it's in Japanese, and doesn't have any kind of English captioning. The only saving grace is that it's not integral to progression.
The developers have created a simply beautiful world, and it's easily one of the best games on the Wii from an artistic standpoint. The different environments have so much personality, especially later on, and the characters, and world, just help to make everything quite captivating. There is a slight negative with the voice acting, as it can often become quite tedious, especially with the amount of unnecessary pauses the voice actors seemed to use. The music is another plus point though, and the ending theme - Tsuki no Nukumori - is a perfect artistic ending.
While the game does actually have a decent length, it is a bit inflated by all the tedious walking towards the end of the game. It's also not really going to challenge anyone, as the majority of the game is ridiculously easy. Upon completing the game, there isn't really any incentive to play through again either, as there are no difficulty modes and the only thing that happens is some extras are unlocked. Players might want to play again to try and find all the memories that are scattered throughout the world, but should really only be recommended for those who truly want to be immersed in the world.
Fragile Dreams is a truly beautiful game from a graphical, atmospheric, and musical perspective. However, its artistic beauty is sometimes overshadowed by some tedious level design and very weak gameplay elements. It's also extremely easy, and with no real replay value, it's a game that should be enjoyed for its artist merits and sadly, not much else.